Valentine’s Day – where does it come from and why do we celebrate it?

Valentine’s Day, also known as Saint Valentine’s Day or the Feast of Saint Valentine, is celebrated worldwide, every year on February the 14th

Originating as a Western Christian feast day, where one or two early saints (Valentinus), were honoured, it is recognized today as a significant cultural, religious, as well as a commercial celebration of romance and romantic love.

There are various different stories / legends associated with February the 14th.  One is a written account of Saint Valentine of Rome’s imprisonment for performing weddings for soldiers who were, apparently, forbidden to marry (this, however, could never be proven).  Another legend is that Saint Valentine restored the sight of his judge’s blind daughter just before his execution.  In his farewell letter he wrote to her, he signed it “Your Valentine.”  The Feast of Saint Valentine was established by Pope Gelasius I in AD 496, to be celebrated on February 14, in honour of the Christian martyr, Saint Valentine of Rome, who died on that date in AD 269.

It was first associated with romantic love within the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer in the 14th century, when the tradition of courtly love flourished.  In the 18th century, in England, it grew into an occasion where couples expressed their love for each other, by giving each other flowers, confectionery, and sending greeting cards (known as “valentines), to each other.  Today symbols like heart-shaped chocolates, cards, doves, Cupid and the colour red and pink, are used on Valentine’s Day. 

Since the 19th century, handwritten and/or handmade valentines have given way to mass-produced greeting cards.  In Europe, for example, Saint Valentine’s Keys are given to lovers as a “romantic symbol” and as an “invitation to unlock the giver’s heart.”  It is also given to children to ward off epilepsy (called Saint Valentine’s Malady).  In the Anglican Communion as well as the Lutheran Church, Saint is a Valentine’s Day is an official fest day.  In the Eastern Orthodox Church Saint Valentine’s Day is also celebrated, but on July the 6th and July the 30th.  July the 6th is in honour of the Roman presbyter, Saint Valentine, and July the 30th is in honour of Hieromartyr Valentine, Bishop of Interana (modern-day Terni).

Another legend about Valentine’s Day is that Saint Valentine cut hearts from parchment and gave it to the soldiers and persecuted Christians, as a reminder to the men of their vows and God’s love.  This could be a reason why hearts are widely used today.  Although the European folk traditions, connected with Saint Valentine and St. Valentine’s Day, have become marginalized by modern Anglo-American customs that focus on the romantic love, there are some remaining associations connecting the saint with the advent of spring.

While the sending of cards, flowers, chocolates and other gifts, originated in the UK, Valentine’s Day is still connected with various regional customs in the UK.  For example, in Norfolk, a character by the name of “Jack” Valentine, knocks on the rear door of the houses, leaving sweets and presents for the children.  Although he left sweets, many children were still scared of this unknown, mystical person.

In Slovenia, Saint Valentine (also known as Zdravko), was one of the saints of spring, the saint of good health and the patron of the beekeepers and the pilgrims.   There is a proverb that says “Saint Valentine brings the keys of roots.”  Plants and flowers start to grow on this day; thus, it has been celebrated as the day when the first work in the vineyards and in the fields commences.  Another belief is that birds propose to each other or marry on that day.  A proverb says “Valentin – prvi spomladin” (“Valentine – the first spring saint”).

In some cultures, and social circles, Valentine’s Day is a day to appreciate friends.  For example, in Finland, they refer to Valentine’s Day as “Friends day,” which is more about remembering all friends rather than focusing solely on romance. In   Guatemala, it is known as the Day of Love and Friendship. It is similar to Valentine’s Day customs and traditions in countries such as the United States but it is also a time for many to show their appreciation for their friends.

In some places, especially White Carniola, Saint Valentine Day marks the beginning of spring.  Only recently has it been celebrated as the day of love.  Traditionally, it was March the 12th – Saint Gregory’s day; or it was February the 12th – Saint Vincent’s Day.  The patron saint of love was called Saint Anthony, whose day has been celebrated on June the 13th.

Whether you are celebrating romance, friendship or both, Valentine’s Day-customs should actually be celebrated each day.  Whether you are single, in a relationship or married, it is not just a day to spend money, but also to remember that love and friendship, go hand-in-hand.  We and our loved ones (romantically or otherwise), is special and unique.  Let us be grateful every day for all the people in our lives that brightens up our days, hold our hands, give us a shoulder to cry on when needed, and most of all, love us unconditionally.

After all; the greatest gift you can give someone is unconditional love:  love that doesn’t expect something in return, love that never judges, humiliates, is sarcastic or just rude, love that is pure.  Pure, unconditional love, is love without any strings attached; it is a space / place where you can be your authentic self.

Enjoy the day and to all of my readers, happy Saint Valentine’s Day!

Different ways to make sure your immune system stays strong

Your immune system is your body’s defence mechanism that protects you from diseases.  In order for the immune system to function optimally, it must detect a wide variety of pathogens, for example viruses, parasitic worms and bacteria.  This must be distinguished from the body’s own healthy tissue. When the body’s immune system is down, one not only gets ill quicker or catch a cold easier, but the body will struggle to “get over” the illness and your chances double to become ill, again, when the immune system is not functioning properly.

More and more people today suffer from chronic tiredness, anger, depression, stress and overall exhaustion.  Two things play a role:  the world we live in today is geared on consumerism; everything is “fast:” fast cars, fast food, fast trains, and so forth.  This is creating stress and strain for both adults and children alike, as they struggle to keep up with the pace.  The second thing that plays a role is our diet, general lack of nutrition and not getting rid of our stress.  Food stores and fast food-places have made life “easier” for us to grab a meal on the go.  However, these meals more often than not, lack the essential nutrients that we need.  Even the “healthier” options contain hidden ingredients like extra sugar and salt; not to mention the huge amounts of sugar that goes into your soda’s, ice teas, and energy drinks.

The debate is still on regarding fruit juices, as this also contains sugar.  However, when you dilute it with ice or water, or whether you drink it as is, moderation is the key.  I personally believe that fruit juice is a better option than soda; just make sure to read the labels first to make sure that there is not many / any synthetic things added, or extra sugars and/or preservatives. Now the question is; what can you do to keep your immune system strong?

Apart from eating more fresh fruits and vegetables, adding salads, nuts, oily fish and spices like garlic and turmeric to your diet, is a good way to start.  Drinking enough water, exercising, getting enough sleep, not smoking, drinking alcohol in moderation, and getting rid of stress, will also play a big role.  Getting out into the fresh air (even on a crisp, cold winter’s morning), can do wonders for your mood, skin and circulation. 

Vitamins B (B-complex), C and D, as well as Omega-oils, are important.  When we are ill or under stress, our bodies’ immune system uses vitamin B to help it to cope.  It is important to add this to your shopping bag if you don’t eat meat or don’t eat a lot of red meat, as vitamins B6 and B12 are more concentrated in red meats.

Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, so make sure to take it every morning, before breakfast.  If you have a sensitive digestive system, make sure to buy a buffered vitamin C.

Vitamin D (the sunshine vitamin), is important as it helps the body to make serotonin (the happy hormone).  For my readers that live in the Northern Hemisphere, as well as the elderly, adding a good vitamin D-tablet to your shopping trolley is a great way to get your dose of vitamin D in.

Omega oils not only play an important role in keeping the immune system strong and healthy, but is also important for your brain’s development and health.  If you are allergic to shellfish, look out for a brand that uses flaxseed and/or other seeds instead.

Maintaining a healthy gut is also a good idea, as is keeping the body in a more alkaline state.  Research is being done to prove that there is a link between your gut’s health and your body’s overall health and strong immune system.  An alkaline gut is better than an acidic gut, and in order to maintain the balance, you can take something like Dr. A. Vogel’s Multiforce Alkaline Powder once a week or once a month.

Very important for staying healthy and keeping bugs at bay, is to wash your hands regularly.  Whether you worked in the garden, come home from work, went to the bathroom, were our shopping, or want to prepare food, always make sure to wash your hands with soap and water.    

Lastly; when you are out and about and you sneeze, sneeze into your bent elbow-area, not your hands; as this will lessen your chance of catching a bug.  Never rub your eyes, mouth or even your nose, when your hands are not clean. 

Life today is not always easy, but if you can take a time-out, switch off and learn to relax and destress, you are hallway there.  When it happens and you do come down with a cold or flu, having a strong immune system will not only help you to get over it easier, but your chance of it getting worse, is far less, because your body’s defences are stronger and more prepared, as it were! Take care of your health and remember, a healthy body + a healthy mind = a happy life!

healthy body/mind

“If music is the food of love, play on…” and in this case, teach on!

Music has been around for hundreds of years; stirring our deepest emotions.  In every culture, every country, mothers sing or hum a lullaby to their baby.  An English mother might sing “Twinkle, Twinkle” or “Hush, Little Baby,” while a Zulu mother sings “Thula Baba.”  No matter the culture or language; studies have shown that remarkably similar tones and ways of singing, accompanied by a swaying motion, are found.

Babies, in utero, can hear sounds from 24 weeks!  Although muffled, the child can hear the mother’s voice.  According to Dr. Annette Lotter, a doctor in education specializing in brain profiling, says that when a mother or father makes aggressive or harsh sounds, the baby’s heart rate increases and they feel anxious and scared.  Soft and happy music and voices, makes the baby feel safe and happy.  This is proof that an unborn not only hears but also experiences different emotions and sounds from an extremely early age – laying the foundation for their own emotional intelligence throughout life!

Music is the universal language, used to lift our spirits, make us smile, dance and even moves us to tears.  Therefore, if music affects emotions, can it affect intellect?  Dr. Lotter says that there are 5 brain states, ranging from deep sleep to shock.  Brain waves vary throughout the day in response to stimulation.  Music influences brain activity and we respond emotionally and physically.  For example, listening to heavy rock or metal music, not only affects our nervous system in a damaging way, but it can also make us more aggressive.  Relaxing, classical or other music on the other hand, makes us calm and is not just good for our brain, but also our emotional state and nerves.

Many studies have been done and has proven that there is a definite link between certain types of music and studying.  Baroque-music (think Mozart) influences the child’s brain wave activity.  A normal heartbeat is about 60 – 75 beat per minute and in order to induce alpha brain waves (needed for studying), playing music with that number of beats, is excellent.  Classical or instrumental music is best, as there are no words to distract the child whilst learning.  Using relaxing music to help a child go to relax and/or go to sleep is another tool to use that’ll induce melatonin-production and a deep sleep.  Dr. Lotter further explains that, if a child is agitated or stressed, the non-dominant hemisphere in the cortex switches off, which is not a good learning state.  Have you ever tried to recall a name or telephone number when stressed or in shock?

Another positive when playing passive music for about 10 – 15 minutes, is when you want your child to calm down after a day of play / activities.  This will help to get their brain waves back into alpha state, which accommodates learning and sleep.

I am certain that you have heard about the Mozart-effect?  In the early 1990s a study found that, after listening to classical music (especially Mozart), students showed an improvement in certain spatial-temporal tests.  Many studies have also indicated that there is a positive link between the Mozart-effect and studying languages and maths.  American neurologist, Oliver Sacks, call this “orange juice to the brain,”  because it is the most profoundest, non-chemical medication that can treat various conditions, for example depression, organic diseases and anxiety.  In his book “Musicophilia:  Tales of Music and the Brain,” (Knopf), Dr. Sacks describes the way music is proven to calm agitation, improve emotional intelligence and stimulate both memory and linguistic ability. 

Learning to play music, instead of just listening to it, has a positive influence over non-musical intelligence (linguistic-, spatial- and mathematical skills).  Numerous studies have pointed to a correlation between playing an instrument and achieving higher grades.  Due to MRI technologies, scientists can now also see that musicians really do have significantly more grey matter in certain parts of their brains!

A South African psychologist and co-founder of the South African Music Appreciation & Development School, Dr. Lydia Dreyer, believes that music will stimulate a child’s overall development; particularly when it is introduced through age-appropriate activities. Not only will it develop music-appreciation skills, but it will also develop intellectual, emotional, social, motor, listening and concentration skills in a playful manner.

No matter what instrument you learn to play, each require different visual, spatial and auditory skills.  It teaches a child to focus and multi-task, as well as teaching patience, practice and precision.  Not only does a child learn to read music, but he / she also learn to keep the beat, play the right notes, learn to play loud and soft, fast and slow, and he / she learns to co-ordinate his / her hands, eyes, ears and breathing!  There are also many personal and interpersonal skills that get a big boost and, by learning that a piece of music can take time, effort and patience, a child learns about organisational skills and time management from an early age.  A sense of achievement comes through every time a child learns a new piece of music or technique.

Looking at the research done, one can easily see the correlation between maths and music.  in a bar of music, for example, the beat is sub-divided into whole notes, half-notes, quarter-notes, and so forth.  In a nutshell you are dealing with fractions; and reading / clapping to the beat, therefore, involves both counting notes and rhythms.

Music and language have similar traits.  Both consist of rhythm, tone and pitch.  Until the age of 6, a child can easily learn to speak more than 1 language.  Instead of trying to remember words grammatically, the child listens to the sound of the words.  So too with learning music.  A child recognizes the different sounds and pitch; as the child gets older, he / she they can distinguish between the different instruments, pitch, harmonies, as well as musicality (especially if there is a person(s) singing).

When interacting with music through clapping, dancing, marching, and so on, the child’s motor skills are developed and the child learns about spatial orientation, co-ordination, and understanding the body in space.

Another wonderful thing about learning to play an instrument, is that many times it involves being part of an orchestra, band or choir.  Teamwork, discipline and co-operation are quickly learnt, because you have to listen to each other, wait your turn, be on time (for practise, performance and when playing your piece of music), and work as a unit.

Even if your child doesn’t have any interest in becoming a musician, just giving him / her the opportunity to learn about it, not only widens the child’s knowledge, but also teaches music appreciation.  There are hundreds of adults today that appreciate good music.  As an ex-teacher myself, I can honestly say that learning to play musical instruments were not just a lot of fun, but it made me a well-rounded adult today!

Tip:  if your child doesn’t gel with the music teacher, don’t force the child to stay with that teacher.  Look for a new one, because often the teacher can make / break the child’s interest and/or love and appreciation of music.

Are your beauty products actually speeding up the ageing process?

Have you ever found yourself standing in front of rows and rows of cleansers, toners, moisturizers, body creams, and so forth, not having a clue which brand is best, or which products will work best on your skin?  We are so bombarded today by advertisers and media by “new technologies” and “miracle ingredients,” that it can be quite overwhelming when it comes to choosing the right products.  Add to that the many articles written about products that are bad for you and the environment, versus the trusted brands that do have certain ingredients in that, according to these articles, are bad for the environment. Here are a few tips that, hopefully, make it easier when it comes to decision-making time.

Age-accelerating irritants

Harsh scrubs, alcohol and fragrance can cause irritation, inflammation and sensitivity, and damage the skin’s protective layer – especially if you are allergic or have a sensitive skin.  When using products that contain one of more of these ingredients, it can dehydrate your skin and make it more vulnerable to environmental damage; making you look older.  It is best to avoid products containing parabens, phthalates and triclosan (can disrupt your hormones too!), as well as products containing harsh detergents and surfactants like sodium lauryl sulphate, fragrances and petrochemicals.

More H2O than moisture

Many of the moisturizers are water-based.  At first your skin will feel hydrated and nourished, but as the water starts to evaporate, your skin end up feeling tighter and even dryer than before.  This in turn causes faster ageing.  Best to avoid these water-based moisturizers that don’t contain hydrophilic groups like amine and hydroxide.  These ingredients bond with the water and lock it into the skin; keeping your skin hydrated all day.

Cleansers and toners that dehydrates the skin

Cleansers and toners are used to clear away dirt and excess oils, right?  Yes, but did you know that using it is just as important to maintain your skin’s moisture and that the wrong products can affect your moisturizer and serum’s ability to penetrate your skin’s layers and do their work?  So, look our for age-appropriate cleansers and stay clear of alcohol-based toners, which only dehydrates the skin. 

What should you add / be on the lookout for?

Alpha-hydroxide acid (AHA) is a chemical that exfoliates the skin.  Ingredients like lactic glycolic acids separate the bonds that hold the dry, dead skin on the surface. These acids help your skin to shed these dead cells naturally and evenly, leaving it looking and feeling smoother and younger.  Do take care not to use a product that has more than 10% AHAs in, as this can irritate your and make it more sensitive than normal.

Serum is non-negotiable

Serum is an important add-on to your beauty routine; especially if you are older than 40.  It is one of the most powerful concentrated products that targets specific skin concerns, for example dark marks.  Serums contain potent doses of ingredients that are light and absorbed quickly, and deliver fast results.

Eye-creams / -gels

Because the areas around the eyes are very sensitive, dot the cream / gel and gently stroke it in.  Careful not to use too much or to rub vigorously and don’t put any cream / gel too close to the eyes.  Using eye-creams / -gels regularly should tackle dark circles, crow’s feet and puffiness.

Sunscreen

The jury is still out – some people believe sunscreen is not good for you, others live by it!  Most day creams contain SPF 15 +.  However, if you don’t use a product with added sunscreen in, do add it to your list when you are out and about in the sun.  We do need sunshine in order for our bodies to absorb and store Vitamin D.

However, roasting in the sun (especially between 10:00 and 14:00), is not a good idea.  Our faces and hands quickly give away our age; make sure to either use a day cream or moisturizer with sunscreen in, or apply some before you put on your make-up; especially if you are going to be in the sun for long periods.

An anti-ageing morning-routine

It is one thing to choose the right products, but make sure to use them in the right order as well to maximize their benefits.  In the morning start with a gentle cleanser.  Then apply your serum sparingly (just a little bit goes a long way as it is quite potent).  If needed, apply an eye-cream / -gel and lastly, your moisturizer.

An anti-ageing night-time routine

Ladies, when it comes to taking off your make-up, use a richer cleanser, micellar water or wipes.  Never go to bed with your make-up on; no matter how tired you are!  Not only will it rub off on your pillow, but it will clog your pores and leave you with a dull, break-out prone skin!  Next apply a serum (try using one that stimulates collagen; look out for the ingredient retinal).  An eye-cream / -gel is then gently applied and lastly a night cream / -gel.  Exfoliate once / twice a week.  But be careful not to over exfoliate, as this can strip your skin not only from its natural oils, but also dry out your skin.

Sometimes we are pressed for time and we don’t have time or energy to go through the above-mentioned routine.  It is OK – I believe that, unless you were sweating during the night, that it is not always the end to not wash your face with a cleanser.  Putting a moisturizer on before you put on your make-up is always a good idea.  Some day-creams contain many active ingredients that not only moisturizes your skin but also evens’ out fine lines, while protecting it against free radicals and the sun.  And remember: always remove your make-up before hopping into bed.

A few last tips 

On the other hand, you might find you are using more products during winter or when you are in an area where the air is dry.  Even then, give your skin a chance to breathe.

Give your skin time to breathe!  Unless you have an extremely dry skin (which can be due to not drinking enough water or not adding enough Omega-oils to your diet), try to skip 1 / 2 nights without putting any creams, gels, serums, and so on, on your face.  There are millions of pores and sweat glands under your skin and it needs to breathe.  Using too much, every day and night, of all the above-mentioned products, can clog the pores and cause break-outs.  When you are lucky enough to live in a humid area, you might find you use less creams.  That is fine. 

Lastly; using too much of a product, too often, will leave your skin more irritated, prone to break-outs and even more sensitive.  Read the labels and never over-use a product.  Your skin can only absorb so much, so remember “less is more.”

Happy shopping and only use products that work for your skin.

Ageing – part of life and not the end of the world

Age is but a number – or so the saying goes.  Getting older is not something that anyone can stop.  Even with the latest skincare products and other treatments today, all of us are going to get older at some point in time.

I do believe that what we say to ourselves and others regarding ageing, plays a huge role in how quickly we become old.  I have met many “young” 70- / 80-year olds, and I have met “old” 60-year olds.  It is a mindset indeed!

Even though ageing is an inevitable part of life, there are some proactive ways to follow, that will ensure that you look and feel your best, regardless of your age.

Healthy eating

“You are what you eat” and if you want to stay healthy for longer, then limit your intake of alcohol, sugar, salt and processed foods.  Add more wholegrains, fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, unsaturated fats, dairy and healthy carbohydrates, to your diet.  This will help you maintain a healthy heart and healthy weight, as well as lower your risk for a stroke and high cholesterol.  When your eating habits are balanced, it will help the body in fighting off inflammation (which can lead to artery, joint, tissue and organ damage, as well as cause arthritis).

Increasing your intake of berries, green tea, cacao, Omega-3 fatty acids (found in pilchards and salmon), walnuts, flaxseeds, calcium-rich foods like bony fish, dairy and seeds, can aid the ageing body to stay healthy and strong.  Red peppers, guava, citrus foods and tomato, are also beneficial.  Not only for their vitamin content, but also for collagen production.  Collagen is important for skin elasticity and firmness, and declines as we get older.

A good multi-vitamin supplement, as well as added Vitamin C, Calcium & Magnesium (with Boron and Zinc), as well as Omega 3 & 6, can be added to your diet.  Vitamin D is another important vitamin.  No matter where you live, if you don’t spend a lot of time in the sun, then make sure to take vitamin D.  it is important for brain functioning and can help to keep depression and/or moodiness, at bay.  Brands like Solal, Solgar, Biogen, Vital and Nutrivite, are all good.

Drink enough water

As we age, our sense of thirst can be inhibited due to our age.  Thus, make sure to drink enough water daily to avoid dehydration this can lead to fatigue, constipation, headaches, fuzzy thinking and even an inability to cope well with heat.  Drinking enough water will energize your muscles, assist with kidney and bowel function, balance the body’s fluids, keep your skin supple, as well as assist with weight maintenance.  According to the latest research, women should aim for 8 – 9 cups of water and men around 13.  Do remember that black tea, without added milk and sugar, can also count as water.  Fizzy water (sparkling water, however, does not count, as it often contains added sugar, etc).  Too many caffeinated drinks; and especially sugary drinks, can cause the skin to wrinkle and cell structures to harden.

Drinking alcohol in moderation, or staying clear of it completely, is another important habit to learn and follow (even when we are younger).  Not only does excessive drinking deplete the body of nutrients needed for cell regeneration and carrying oxygen, but it can also create havoc in your life in general.

Research indicates that resveratrol (found in red wine), has anti-ageing properties.  Do remember that you do not have to finish the bottle!  Instead, follow the French…they have one small glass of wine every evening with their meal.

Exercising

Not only does it help you to lose those extra kilo’s and maintain a healthy weight, but it is vital to keep moving to keep circulation going.  After the age of 30, your body does not make bones anymore; thus, it is vital to keep doing weight-bearing exercises to help the body to build and maintain strong bones.  Any exercise like walking, swimming, cycling, Pilates, Yoga and Water (Aqua) Aerobics, are good ways to maintain flexibility, strong bones, and overall health.

Time and again research have proven that exercise boosts endorphins (the happy hormones) and promotes better brain power.  Walking just 10 minutes a day can lower your risk of Alzheimer’s by up to 40%, as well as reduce anxiety and stress (which have an effect on your brain’s ageing).  “Movement is life;” so put on your trainers and get the blood pumping!

We all know that smoking has been linked, time and again, to lung cancer, heart disease and stroke.  But did you know it can also speed up ageing?  When you smoke, the carbon monoxide and nicotine displace oxygen and reduces the blood flow to your skin, leaving it dry, discoloured and dull.  Many vital nutrients also get lost due to smoking and yes, even if you take supplements, the damage caused by smoking (e-cigarettes included), is long-term and permanent.  Best never to start!

Stress less

Stress increases the amount of cortisol and norepinephrine-hormones, whilst suppressing your immune system.  When you are constantly stressing, it leads to the hardening of your arteries, not to mention the negative effect it has on your mood, energy levels and your interactions with those around you.  Long-term stress can also cause an inability to learn, compromised memory capacity and premature ageing.

Therefore, how you manage your time is important.  Making time for socializing, sleeping well, eating healthy, keeping active, quitting smoking and drinking moderately, can all help you live a balanced and happy life.

Snoozing

Not getting enough and / or a good night’s rest regularly, can lead to high blood pressure, diabetes, weight gain and looking far older and tired than what you are.  Having a good night’s rest boost your memory and concentration, reduces the risk of a heart attack and stroke, and also improves your mood.  It is during sleep that the human growth hormone-production (HGH) is at its highest.  This hormone doesn’t only play a part in looking younger, but also helps you to have have more energy, feel revitalized and ready for the day. 

Socializing

Socializing is good for our physical, emotional and cognitive health.  People who connect on social levels can also cope better with stress.  So, whether you are sending an e-mail, WhatsApp, phoning someone or getting together, make time for your friends and family.

We cannot stop Father Clock from ticking, but we can change the way in which we change.  Making changes to live a healthier, happier and balanced life, will not only add more years to your life, but will also let you age gracefully. 

New Year, New Beginnings

Hallo to all my readers and followers! It has been a while since I wrote. Alas, I ended 2019 going back to the days before computers…we had more than the usual rain, which caused damage to my telephone- and internet lines! To top it off, it was December, and not sure why, but it just seemed that the people who needed to fix it, worked slower.

So, here I was, only linked to the world out there via my cell phone, and the odd “catch-up” at the gym (if there computers were online, that is)!

Nonetheless, the break was actually not so bad, as it gave me time to read more books, spend time with loved ones (without the phone beeping) and I could finish my yearly spring-cleaning! This time it was paperwork! Now I am back, and will be posting my articles again once a week.

Thank you for those who do read and follow me; this year I am ready to write much more, so to everyone: hope this year will be a good one and, when there is chaos around you / us, take a deep breathe, step back and go within. Take a walk in nature, take a bath, and just remember that, whatever is happening, it is the way we react that counts. Yes, easier said than done, especially with everything that is going on in the world today. But do remember; don’t follow the sheeple. Do your research, use your common sense, because there are too many false / fake stories, and so forth, doing the rounds.

All in all, regardless what 2020 holds, I hope that it will be a good year, a year where the Light and Love will start to return to earth, to bring in peace and harmony.

See you soon!

Being and staying an optimist – is it possible?

In today’s world many things look upside down and to be and/or stay optimistic, can be a challenge.  Changes come quickly and it can make us feel as if Mother Earth is spinning too fast.  If there is one thing that is a certainty, it is change.  Change is inevitable; nothing in life is permanent; it is part of life.  So, how do you cope with it? 

Stop and breathe!  Take a few slow, deep breathes in (counting to 8 or 10) and slowly exhale through your mouth.  Instead of turning every hiccup, every change, into a crisis, see it as a challenge.  No matter how “dark” the road ahead looks, there is really and truly a light at the end of the tunnel.  I know it’s a bit of a cliché, but there cannot be a rainbow without the rain.  More often than not, your ego will go into overdrive and your mind will be filled with “what if, but.”  Alas, this will make you worry, stress and overthink far too much.  When you step back and look at whatever life is throwing at you (as if you are watching a movie scene), then you will notice that you can and are able to deal with it. 

Indeed, when a tragedy strikes it can be more difficult, but trust me, time does heal and you will cope.  We are far stronger inside than what we give ourselves credit for.  The ego, although it serves a purpose, should not be given the “go ahead” to overrule our common sense, gut instinct and our heart.  When we are in a state of peace (even when the going gets tough), then we can look at situations much more objectively.  Instead of letting our emotions (ego) take over, our intellect and gut instinct will know what to do, how to react and that “this too shall pass.”  Here are a few tips to help you become and/or stay an optimist.

Wise up

With so many viewpoints, opinions, news outlets and more, it can become overwhelming to know who and what to believe.  Luckily there are books and the internet, that one can go to if not sure about the facts.  Do your research, ask questions and take stock / make a list of what you know and what you don’t about a situation, health diagnosis, and so on.  According to Travis Bradberry (co-writer of the book Emotional Intelligence 2.0), putting pen to paper can take the power away from the unknown.

Meet your inner cavewoman / -man 

Our inner alarm bells, the “fight or flight-response,” goes off when we are worried and stressed.  Stress, in small doses, can be healthy because it makes us more alert and kick our mind and gut feeling into action.  However, too much stress can be dangerous to both ourselves and the people around us.  Thus, step back and take a deep breath (as mentioned in the beginning).  Your nerves meet / come together in your naval-area.  Taking deep breathes in and out and focusing on relaxing that part of the body, will quickly put us in a more relaxed and clear-headed state of mind.

Embrace the chaos 

If you imagine being a feather that is blown by the wind, never knowing where you will end up next, does it make you anxious; or is there a sense of freedom?  People want to be in control most of the time, but this often backfires when external forces make you believe that you have failed in some way.  Instead of feeling believing that you cannot do this or do that, do what you can and remember that you are human.  Instead of focusing on / seeing something as a loss, see it as a gain.  Don’t “catastrophise” a situation / change; see it as an opportunity.

Keep your feet on the ground 

When your life takes a turn into the uncertainty, past hurts / disappointments can creep up and make us worry about the future.  Stop and bring yourself and your thoughts back into the now / present moment.  The past is gone and the future is not yet here.  Breathe, do some yoga poses, go outside and connect with nature, take a bath, or put on some uplifting music and stay centred in the present moment.

Trust your gut instincts 

The tummy acts as our “third brain.”  Together with the head and heart, these 3 make a great time to keep us centred, relaxed and in the now.  Stop ignoring the little voice inside your head; don’t ignore that nagging feeling in your gut.  Life will be so much easier if more people will listen to their inner voice, their instincts.  Whether you tune in during your quiet time or when you are exercising, get in touch with yourself.  Albert Einstein got his best ideas when sailing, for example!

Train your brain 

Instead of allowing our thoughts (ego-based) to trample our brain, cloud our judgement and make as unnecessarily anxious or stressful, replace those negatives with positives.  It is often during the night, when we get into bed, that these thoughts creep up, because then we become quiet and the world around us as well.  Dr. John Demartini calls it “have an attitude of gratitude.”  Whatever life is throwing at you at this very moment, know that you’ve been through similar situations before and you came out stronger.  Being centred and grateful for all the positive things, people and situations in your life, at this very moment, will transform the difficult into something that is easy and/or attainable.

Being optimistic when the world around us go mad, is not easy, I agree.  Staying an optimist can even been trickier.  However, by using our breath and becoming centred and stilling our minds, can help us to cope better.  Just saying thank you for the people and things we do have in our lives, is already a step into the right direction.

The Universe will give you what you want when you are grateful and thankful for that which you already have.  Sometimes you might not get something or someone, but always know and trust that the Universe / Divinity only wants what is best for you.  “Look up and look pleased!”

Ageing – part of life and not the end of the world

Age is but a number – or so the saying goes.  Getting older is not something that anyone can stop.  Even with the latest skincare products and other treatments today, all of us are going to get older at some point in time. I do believe that what we say to ourselves and others regarding ageing, plays a huge role in how quickly we become old.  I have met many “young” 70- / 80-year folks, and I have met “old” 60-year folks.  It is a mindset indeed! Although ageing is an inevitable part of life, there are some proactive ways to follow, that will ensure that you look and feel your best, regardless of your age.

Healthy eating

“You are what you eat” and if you want to stay healthy for longer, then limit your intake of alcohol, sugar, salt and processed foods.  Add more wholegrains, fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, unsaturated fats, dairy and healthy carbohydrates, to your diet.  This will help you maintain a healthy heart and healthy weight, as well as lower your risk for a stroke and high cholesterol.  When your eating habits are balanced, it will help the body in fighting off inflammation (which can lead to artery, joint, tissue and organ damage, as well as cause arthritis).

Increasing your intake of berries, green tea, cacao, Omega-3 fatty acids (found in pilchards and salmon), walnuts, flaxseeds, calcium-rich foods like bony fish, dairy and seeds, can aid the ageing body to stay healthy and strong.  Red peppers, guava, citrus foods and tomato, are also beneficial.  Not only for their vitamin content, but also for collagen production.  Collagen is important for skin elasticity and firmness, and declines as we get older.

A good multi-vitamin supplement, as well as added Vitamin C, Calcium & Magnesium (with Boron and Zinc), as well as Omega 3 & 6, can be added to your diet.  Vitamin D is another important vitamin.  No matter where you live, if you don’t spend a lot of time in the sun, then make sure to take vitamin D.  It is important for brain functioning and can help to keep depression and/or moodiness, at bay.  Brands like Solal, Solgar, Biogen, Vital, Vitaforce and Nutrivite, are good.

Drink enough water

As we age, our sense of thirst can be inhibited due to our age.  Thus, make sure to drink enough water daily to avoid dehydration this can lead to fatigue, constipation, headaches, fuzzy thinking and even an inability to cope well with heat.  Drinking enough water will energize your muscles, assist with kidney and bowel function, balance the body’s fluids, keep your skin supple, as well as assist with weight maintenance.  According to the latest research, women should aim for 8 – 9 cups of water and men around 13.  Do remember that black tea, without added milk and sugar, can also count as water.  Fizzy water (sparkling water, however, does not count, as it often contains added sugar, etc).  Too many caffeinated drinks; and especially sugary drinks, can cause the skin to wrinkle and cell structures to harden.

Drinking alcohol in moderation, or staying clear of it completely, is another important habit to learn and follow (even when we are younger).  Not only does excessive drinking deplete the body of nutrients needed for cell regeneration and carrying oxygen, but it can also create havoc in your life in general.

Research indicates that resveratrol (found in red wine), has anti-ageing properties.  Do remember that you do not have to finish the bottle!  Instead, follow the French…they have one small glass of wine every evening with their meal.

Exercising

Not only does it help you to lose those extra kilo’s and maintain a healthy weight, but it is vital to keep moving to keep circulation going.  After the age of 30, your body does not make bones anymore; thus, it is vital to keep doing weight-bearing exercises to help the body to build and maintain strong bones.  Any exercise like walking, swimming, cycling, Pilates, Yoga and Water (Aqua) Aerobics, are good ways to maintain flexibility, strong bones, and overall health.

Time and again research have proven that exercise boosts endorphins (the happy hormones) and promotes better brain power.  Walking just 10 minutes a day can lower your risk of Alzheimer’s by up to 40%, as well as reduce anxiety and stress (which have an effect on your brain’s ageing).  “Movement is life;” so put on your trainers and get the blood pumping!

We all know that smoking has been linked, time and again, to lung cancer, heart disease and stroke.  But did you know it can also speed up ageing?  When you smoke, the carbon monoxide and nicotine displace oxygen and reduces the blood flow to your skin, leaving it dry, discoloured and dull.  Many vital nutrients also get lost due to smoking and yes, even if you take supplements, the damage caused by smoking (e-cigarettes included), is long-term and permanent.  Best never to start!

Stress less

Stress increases the amount of cortisol and norepinephrine-hormones, whilst suppressing your immune system.  When you are constantly stressing, it leads to the hardening of your arteries, not to mention the negative effect it has on your mood, energy levels and your interactions with those around you.  Long-term stress can also cause an inability to learn, compromised memory capacity and premature ageing.

Therefore, how you manage your time is important.  Making time for socializing, sleeping well, eating healthy, keeping active, resting / relaxing, quitting smoking and drinking moderately, can all help you live a balanced and happy life. Just being in nature, reading a book, listening to uplifting music, or meditating, will decrease your stress levels and help the body to excrete the “happy hormones” serotonin. Taking a few slow, deep breathes in and sighing it out, will not only help you to relax more, but also to release a lot of stress.

Snoozing

Not getting enough and / or a good night’s rest regularly, can lead to high blood pressure, diabetes, weight gain and looking far older and tired than what you are.  Having a good night’s rest boost your memory and concentration, reduces the risk of a heart attack and stroke, and also improves your mood.  It is during sleep that the human growth hormone-production (HGH) is at its highest.  This hormone doesn’t only play a part in looking younger, but also helps you to have have more energy, feel revitalized and ready for the day.  Taking a nap (power nap) is another good way to feel re-energized and revitalized.

Socializing

Socializing is good for our physical, emotional and cognitive health.  People who connect on social levels can also cope better with stress.  So, whether you are sending an e-mail, WhatsApp, phoning someone or getting together, make time for your friends and family.

We cannot stop Father Clock from ticking, but we can change the way in which we change.  Making changes to live a healthier, happier and balanced life, will not only add more years to your life, but will also let you age gracefully and with more peace of mind. 

Lip-talk

Our lips are used for talking, smiling, kissing, singing, laughing and so much more. Like our hands, nose and ears, they are exposed to the elements; therefore they need some TLC all year round.

Whether it is just a dry, sunny day; or a cold, winter morning, our lips can become quite dry when exposed to the elements.  This is because our lips have no sebaceous glands, very little melanin, and a very thin layer of skin.  Chapped lips are not uncommon; often accompanied with dryness, itchiness and/or pain.  Small cracks can also appear in the corners of the mouth.  Often people tend to lick their lips, but rather use a good lip balm, as licking one’s dry lips will only aggravate the symptoms.

The cracks in the corner of the mouth can relate to the dryness, due to a blocked nose, but it can also be an indication of a lack of Vitamin C.  Vitamin C is not stored in the body, but excreted when we go to the bathroom.  Therefore, I would suggest that you take your vitamin C every day – preferably in the morning before you eat breakfast.  There are many different brands on the market to choose from; I use one that is buffered, so that it does not irritate my stomach.

Our lips, just like our bodies, needs exfoliation and moisturizing.  You can either use a moist facecloth or a soft toothbrush to gently exfoliate the lips.  Once done, remember to put on something like Vaseline lip balm, to moisturize the lips.

The dreaded cold sore or fever blister often pops-up when least welcome!  It is caused by the herpes simplex virus (type-1 strain) and enters the body through a cracked mouth corner or break in the skin inside / around the mouth.  Once inside the body, the virus lies dormant in your skin’s nerve cells.  Many of us know – once you get it, the chances of it recurring is doubled!  So; be careful not to kiss someone who has a cold sore, don’t share utensils, razors, lip balm or towels.  The only thing this virus needs in order to “show it’s face” again, is a cold or flu, stress, fatigue, menstruation and even too much time in the sun!

So…what do you do when you feel the tingling and/or burning sensation that is the start of a cold sore or fever blister?  Go to a pharmacy and get yourself an over-the-counter ointment, with Acyclovir in.  The ointment will form a layer over the sore, smothering it.  This extra layer can be left, or you can very carefully, using a soft tissue, peel off the ointment-layer (it often looks like skin peeling).  Just make sure that you don’t try and peel off the parts that are still stuck; if you do it’ll start bleeding and then the cold sore will take longer to heal.  Do not scratch it, even when it starts to itch.  Itching is normally a sign that signals healing.  If it gets worse, rather scratch or rub around the cold sore; this will lessen the itching and will keep you from aggravating the cold sore. If a cold sore doesn’t clear up after a couple of days; or if it gets worse, go see your medical practitioner. 

Remember to always wash your hands before you eat, before you prepare a meal, when you went to the bathroom, to the shops, and especially after you have put ointment on your cold sore.  Teach your children to do the same – with all the germs today one cannot be too careful! 

As mentioned earlier, vitamin C, used daily, is very important.  Make sure your immune system is strong 365 days of the year.  A good B-complex, that includes B6 & B12, are good to take; especially during times of stress.  A multi-vitamin is also a good idea.  A wonderful product to use, that helps the body to maintain healthy tissue and gums, is L-Lysine.  It is an essential amino acid that our bodies cannot produce and plays a vital role in combating fever blisters.

Come rain, come sun, come snow – exfoliate and moisturize your lips regularly.  If you are in the sun use a lip balm or lipstick with added protection against the sun.  If you are out in the cold, wind, rain or snow, then use something with added moisturizer in. And for the rest of the day, keep smiling!

Your feet – storytellers just like your hands

When asked, what do you look at when you observe people, many would say their feet or the shoes they wear.  Our feet are, together with our legs, the pillars on which the rest of the body sits.  They work non-stop and often than not, get a bit neglected when it comes to exercising and stretching the muscles in the feet.

Feet are vital parts of the body – vital for our mobility, quality of life and even survival!  Did you know, that there are 26 bones, 33 joints, 19 muscles and 107 ligaments, in each foot??  That is simply amazing!!  No wonder the feet have been referred to as a perfect marriage of form and function.

The feet’s skin, like that of the hands, might look quite ordinary.  However, in reality it is a complex marvel of fat pads, pores and blood vessels, all working together to ensure that every step taken, is balanced and evenly pressured.  The tightly-stretched sole of the foot contains the thickest skin of the human body.  It is criss-crossed by a set of creases that react to pressure from walking, running and standing.  The sole includes as many as 200 000 (!) extremely sensitive nerve endings, which explains why it can hurt if you step on a pebble, why something can make it itch, and why our feet are often quite ticklish! It is also the reason why a foot massage, or a shiatsu-, acupressure- or reflexology-session, can make you feel relaxed and/or sleepy afterwards.

Feet can vary in size, shape and form.  Research has indicated that the human foot has changed over thousands of years.  Many years ago, Edward Rutherford wrote books about these changes by researching families throughout the ages.  He concluded that people with long prehensile toes, were water people, who needed length for gripping branches and rocks.  Short, stubby toed people (on the other hand), were from agrarian cultures, who lived and worked on the land.

Toenails, like finger nails, are nature’s great protectors.  It consists of multiple layers of protein-rich tissue, a growth-promoting matrix, as well as several delicate membranes designed to protect the toes (and body) against bacterial invasion, as well as prevent infection.  Toenails also protect the ends of our toes from injuries via the delicate sensation exerted on our toes when we walk, run or stand.  They grow quite slowly – approximately 1mm per month.

I don’t know about you, but as I got older, my shoe-size changed.  There was also a time when I didn’t think twice about wearing high heeled-shoes.  Today?  Yes, I still wear them, but the heal is not higher than 10 cm.  Speaking about high heels.  Did you know that, the more you wear high heels, the bigger chance of your Achilles tendon shortening?  This will cause your body weight to be pushed forward; causing your spine to become out of alignment as you push your gluteus out and your weight onto the toes, in order to stay upright and walk in the shoes?

Wearing high heels is not a bad thing; however, it is important, ladies, that you don’t wear them all day, every day.  If you wear high heels for work or when you are going out, take them off once you are home and either walk bare feet, or wear flats.

Certain times of the year our feet can become more prone to dryness and/or corns or calluses.  Depending on where you live, dry, hot air can cause the feet to dry out because we are either walking bare feet, or wearing sandals.  The heels, especially, can dry out quite quickly and can even become hard.  It is not just the dry air and/or sun that can cause dryness, but also the type of shoes we wear.

Therefore, it is always a good idea to either go for a pedicure, or have your own pedicure at home.  If a shoe is too tight it will cause the feet to not only become achy and tired, but with regular wear it’ll cause bunions, calluses, and so on.  If you are wearing high heels all day, every day, put a gel- or other material cushion inside your shoes.  Some brands sell these separate; one for under the toes and the other for under the heels; or you can use an inner sole that’ll act as a shock-absorber, so to speak.

The nails, just like your skin, needs oxygen.  Taking a break in-between nail polish will help to maintain the nails health and colour.  Wearing nail polish for too long, or never going without it, can cause discoloration of the nails over time.

There are many products on the market today that promises to get rid of dry heels, calluses, and so forth.  I cannot tell you which product is best or not, but what I can mention is to put cotton socks on, after you have put your foot cream on, to help absorb the cream.  If you suffer from ingrown toenails, maybe have part of the nail permanently removed.  If corns and/or calluses are troubling you, go see a medical professional.  Do not play around if your toe / toenail is red and/or swollen.  It can be the start of either an ingrown toenail, but more often than not, it is the beginning of an infection.  Tea tree oil is a good, natural product to use.  However, I would recommend to see a medical professional if the symptoms persist or get worse, as you might need anti-bacterial, anti-fungal or antiseptic ointment.

All in all – take the time and make the time, to take better care of your feet.  Stretch them just as you would the rest of your body; make sure you wash them and dry them properly to keep infections at bay; and if they are tired, then lift your feet up (preferably higher than your hips). Give your feet the attention and rest they deserve; after all, you need them as much as you need that coffee-break!